HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


The new rice guidelines

My husband loves white rice, and usually eats it several times a week. After the recent warnings about arsenic, I was concerned and I decided to try cooking rice the way that the FDA is recommending, one cup of washed rice to six cups of water. First, I tried using our trusty rice cooker, and essentially I didn't keep a close enough eye on the time and I ended up with jook. (Luckily I pickled some bok choy earlier this week, so we'll have that for breakfast tomorrow.) Then I tried again on the stove, simmering it for exactly 20 minutes. That came out a little better, but the texture is still not great. More minute rice than jasmine.

So my husband, (who thinks that the whole thing is kind of overblown anyway) thinks we should just go back to washing it and using the rice cooker with the old ratio. I'm willing to do that, but I am still concerned about the arsenic. So I wanted to see what my favorite bunch of online cooks is doing about this whole thing. (I don't post here much but I read a lot and this is the first place that I come when I have a food related question.) Are you making any changes to your rice consumption and/or preparation? My daughter and I used to eat a lot of brown rice but, since the arsenic levels in brown rice are much higher than in white, we've given it up. I'd appreciate your opinions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. No change, but I'm 70.

    1. Hi there, do you have a link to the cooking guidelines? I haven't seen those anywhere.

      Truth is, we've never eaten a lot of rice at home and I actually purged my home of nearly all rice products about a year ago because of the buzz then about arsenic in rice products for infants. Since we have a young child, we're probably just going to continue cooking with other whole grains.

      I do eat rice when I dine out at Asian restaurant and will probably continue to do so in moderation, though I still might avoid feeding rice to my child. And although I normally lean towards brown rice and wild rice (not really a rice, but a grain), I'll probably lean back towards white rice.

      No apple or pear juice at my house either, by the way.


        1. For what it's worth, Dr. Oz says the nutritional benefits of brown rice vs. white rice outweigh the higher arsenic level. The more water you cook either in, the better. I have just recently been using the "pasta" method for cooking my standard rice, which is brown jasmine. I started this before the recent arsenic reports and I like the texture when it is made this way. I just boil it for 25-30 minutes, then pour it through a strainer and return it to the hot pot, cover it, and let it sit off-heat for another 10-15 minutes to absorb the remaining moisture. Separate, fluffy grains.

          2 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            More water is better because of the arsenic? or for other reasons?


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              From the Consumer Reports study:
              "Change the way you cook rice. You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice for cooking and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice's nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice's inorganic arsenic content."

          2. I eat jasmine rice from Thailand about 1x a week. Not really concerned. Brown rice and rice grown in the SE seem to have the highest concentrations.

            2 Replies
            1. re: emily

              Rice grown in current or past cotton-growing areas has far and away the highest arsenic content because of the Paris green - an arsenic insecticide - used to control boll weevils. So Rice from the Gulf states should be off everyone's list. If you stick with California rice you'll be okay, according to the CR piece I read. I guess I'll ditch the rest of my Texmati …

              I do think I'll try the "pasta" method, too.

              1. re: emily

                According to what I read - Thai rice (and Indian rice) generally contain the least amount of arsenic. Not sure about the rest of SE Asia. I eat Thai Jasmine rice or Thai Glutinous (Sticky) Rice at least 2x per day - sometimes directly from a friends farm :o As far as reading about people saying washing the rice is a good idea..... when was it not a good idea! Washing rice use to be necessary, now it is just recommended because if you wash (Jasmine) rice (rubbing the starch off the rice not just swirling water around) it helps the outcome of the cooked rice.

                Addendum: Ah - now realize misread SE to be SE Asia..... SE America (Gulf area) was what the abbreviation was referring to..... :p Yes SE Asia much better!

              2. Pretty much what I've been doing all along: rinsing the rice several times before cooking it. And not putting it high on my list of things to worry about, way below the probability of getting run over on my way back from the farmers' market.

                9 Replies
                1. re: tardigrade

                  Not rinsing - washing. Too many westerners misunderstand how to wash rice -- assuming that they even consider it. I have seen people pour water in, swirl, then discard the water....... Rice (steamed) if you actually add some water then "scrunch" handfuls of the rice around the edge of pot then add a little more water and pour all the water out, then repeat a second time.

                  1. re: cacruden

                    Sorry to be dense, but are you saying you wash rice using the "scrunch" method after it's steamed?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      No, wash trying to come up with a word - but having problems. It is before cooking the rice. Originally rice had to be washed and checked to make sure the rice was clean of contaminate rocks etc, but now the rice is basically already clean but contains starch on the rice - basically edible - from being processed into white rice. What you want to do is to get rid of the excess starch/powder clinging to the rice before steaming. Just pouring in water and swirling will not do it. You have to basically make sure to rub (it can be by a combination of rubbing the grains in your hand / and/or against the edge of the pot) the grains of rice to dislodge the starch. (which will still be heavier than water). The first time around you will notice the water very cloudy with starch which if you pour out as much water as possible will discard the majority of the excess starch. The second time around the water will be less cloudy.... Make sure not to use too much water or you will have a harder time corralling the rice. By getting rid of the excess starch the rice will be less sticky and the better quality when cooked. I just thought it funny that they were recommended washing it to help with the "arsenic" problem from contaminated land in the United States southeast. You will also notice that in North American supermarkets a lot of times they don't treat rice as a perishable item, but in the east it is treated as such and there is a premium when going to buy it. I remember going to a local Japanese store when I lived in Toronto (a friend staying with me was Japanese) and asking what was the best quality rice - he pointed me to one brand and indicating it was a new crop - best that they had available. Now-a-days I am pretty sure the rice I have is as fresh as it can be.... since I can get it right from the farm (I am living in Thailand now).

                      1. re: cacruden

                        OK, that makes sense, what you're describing. Wow! I'm envious that you live in Thailand. Wonderful country, with kind people and amazing food too!


                        1. re: cacruden

                          One of my best friends is Japanese and he bought me a rice washer/strainer. It has nice little lines up the sides to rub the grains against and tiny holes at the bottom for draining. It looks kind of like this one, only mine isn't a neat shade of green:


                          1. re: faeriefolk15

                            That's kinda cool. Although, it's one more special purpose item to clog up my cupboards... Still, it's better than eating arsenic!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I know what you mean. I have dozens of gadgets that I use a couple times a year. I kind of love having a tool for every job though.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                If worried about Arsenic in your rice then it is best just to avoid buying American grown rice.... but then the arsenic will just come in chickens from the same area (SE US). I gather half of US rice comes from this area. I was not worried about it before finding out it's localized area, but then I have always (well always since I can remember) preferred to by my "white rice" from Thailand (Jasmine). It is widely recognized of the highest quality amount long grain white rices. The problem is mislabelled - it is not a rice problem it is a food from contaminated lands problem.... in this case former cotton growing land.

                                NOTE: I am not encouraging a boycott of American produce, just saying "if" someone is worried about it.... but then you will still likely be eating something else from the same contaminated lands.

                                1. re: cacruden

                                  Actually, I eat locally produced foods --including chicken-- whenever possible. I like supporting my local producers, but you make an excellent point.


                    2. Thanks for your input everyone! I did read the related posts and the Atlantic article. I wouldn't be so concerned about it, but my husband eats white rice 3-4 times a week and has since he was a kid. Since we use Thai jasmine rice pretty much exclusively, I'll go back to cooking it in the rice cooker. Otherwise the poor man might starve.

                      I will, however, try brown rice on the stove with the 1 cup of rice to 6 of water ratio. I think it might hold up better than the white did, and I would really miss my brown rice with parmesan, leftover veggies and an egg on top breakfast.

                      Here is a link to a Washington Post article that includes the cooking guidelines:


                      Also, the jook was really delicious. I stirred in some soy sauce, a drop of sesame oil, and some diced chicken breast. Then topped it with julienned cucumber, chopped steamed broccoli, the pickled bok choy, and an egg. Very filling too.

                      1. I've been pretty worried about this after reading this news -- my husband is from India, and we eat A LOT of rice at home (as in, 5-6 days of the week). I'm also not sure what to make of the "new" cooking recommendations -- if I were to boil my white rice for 25-30 minutes, I would have mush! My standard cooking procedure for it -- as taught to me by my mother-in-law -- has been to soak it in water for 10-20 minutes, heat a pan with some oil (and seasoning, if I am seasoning it) and to add the rice and water. When I do this, it takes roughly 6-8 minutes to cook. So... note sure what to make of these rice-cooking ideas. I don't think I could cook my go-to recipes like that.

                        I guess I'm just not going to worry too much. Our rice is from India or Nepal, which according to the study has some less arsenic. And since I rinse it well, that helps, too, I guess. But when we have kids, I may have to rethink all of this!

                        1. Arsenic in rice has been studied for at least 20 years by the FDA.

                          Basically, we all have been eating arsenic contaminated rice with no ill effects. It's only a problem now, now that the media has gotten a hold of the story and blown it up.

                          In regards to cooking rice in lots of water.

                          An Iranian (Persian) friend in college used to make rice by boiling in a lot of water for about 5 minutes. Next, he would drain out the rice. In another pot, he added butter and thinly sliced potatoes that lined bottom of the pot. The partially cooked rice would go on top of the potatoes and he'd continue cooking. The potatoes would brown and become crunchy (delicious). The rice turned out nicely - cooked loose grains and buttery..

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: dave_c

                            I figure after all these years of eating rice I have built up an immunity to arsenic

                            1. re: redfish62

                              Drats! All these years I've been worried about Iocane powder.

                              1. re: dave_c

                                Now that I wouldn't worry about. You see, I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

                            2. re: dave_c

                              Wow, that sounds delicious! I'll have to try it.

                              1. re: dave_c

                                Dude.... I just wanted to tell you this potato thing sounds great. Will try it out, thanks fer sharing

                                1. re: chucksters

                                  I went looking for a recipe and this was the first one that popped up. Mr. Bittman has never steered me wrong.


                              2. I hadn't heard of ths before, but then I ignore a lot of stuff. Anyway, I just Googled it, and one article indicated it was a danger to CHILDREN, others said people are putting pressure on the FDA to limit the amount of arsenic allowed in rice, and another article impled the problem was with American grown rice... hmmmm... Will sticking to rice grown in other countries bypass the problem? And why would using a cup of uncooked rice to make jook result in less arsenic in the rice than if you just cooked it in the fairly stanard two cups of water? The amount of arsenic present will be the same in both finished methods.

                                Most of all I'm wondering whether arsenic has been an integral part of rice for eons and man has just gotten around to measuring it? If that's what's happened, nooooooo problem! Or is it farmers spreading arsenic over their rice crops to keep the rodents out????

                                Questions. Lfe is full of questions.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  We have always been exposed to a certain level of arsenic from farming -- which varies naturally from region to region. Bangladesh as an example has a very high concentration of arsenic in the ground water (naturally occurring), which is a known problem. We have also added a certain amount of arsenic to the land since the industrial revolution happened (specifically coal fired plants before scrubbers filtered out some of the contaminants). Arsenic is not the only problem in the food supply, we also have a problem with other heavy metals like mercury in fish. Then there was arsenic that was used in relation to cotton production. Arsenic in quantities greater than 150 parts per billion has been demonstrated to increase the cancer risk (there are lots of things that increase cancer risk). It is also not surprising that children would be more at risk in any related contamination..... So typically the acceptable levels associated with exposure are usually set below the proven exposure level in related to risk.... in this case 10 parts per billion. Now if you grow stuff on "contaminated land" it will absorb that contamination. Washing rice will get rid of surface contamination (assuming the water you are using is not also contaminated because there is a certain level of contamination in water supplies). When you cook rice, the water is absorbed and "fluffs" which means that additional water is gets absorbed and what goes in, also comes out to to a certain extent. It therefore would not be surprising that if you cook in excess of water for a bit and then discard the water it would dilute it to a certain extent - not a great amount - but some. Of course I always found that when I cooked using the absorption method, that if I opened up the pot and took out water -- the end product was substantially reduced. There are of course different cooking methods for different styles of rice. The studies that are related to elevated levels of arsenic indicate that ONE area that has among the highest levels of arsenic in rice is the American southeast. Rice from California not so much. I never see rice labeled by state - but only by country of origin. The same studies indicate that rice from Thailand and India tend to be among the lowest..... So yes, to a certain extent where you buy food from is a factor. Now if the farm land in those areas are contaminated, then the ground water from those same areas will be contaminated as well. I did not see any studies that indicated people from those regions are suffering significantly more problems than people in other areas of the United States - which leads me believe it is more hype than real problem. I also get suspicious when a single product is targeted since there have been many examples where the hype is more generated from a competing product (maybe potatoes or wheat) lobbies (re: Vegetable oil lobby demonized the saturated fats then created hydrogenated oil - i.e. trans-fats which were much more evil than saturated fats ever where).

                                2. The media always has to have something to try to scare us about, which is why I don't watch the news. Before this it was Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu, the Hanta Virus, and Y2K.